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New guidance to help HR with Race at Work Charter released

The CIPD and Business in the Community (BITC) have issued new guidance to help employers meet the Race at Work Charter.

Launched in 2018, the charter is a public commitment to tackle ethnic disparities in the workplace.

By signing it, businesses make five commitments. They must have an executive sponsor for race and a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and bullying from the board. They must also collect & report ethnicity data; take action to support ethnic minority career progression; and make workplace equality a priority for all leaders and managers.

New guidance from the partners is intended to help businesses meet these commitments.

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese said that though employers are speaking up about the importance of diversity and inclusion, it has been challenging to achieve meaningful action.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “We must move beyond good intention, engage our people, understand where we really are, and communicate and commit to the interventions that are needed to make a real and sustained difference.”

The CIPD, he added, is pleased to partner with BITC and the charter to help organisations and HR lead the way.

“It is an invaluable framework to help organisations address racial inequalities and create properly inclusive workplaces,” he said.

To support ethnic minority career progression, for example, the guide advises organisations to create opportunities for employees to build relationships across the business, i.e. through mentoring or employee networks.

It suggests progression can also be facilitated through giving ethnic minority employees opportunities to work on varied projects and access training and development.

Sandra Kerr, race director at BITC, said HR professionals are essential to facilitating the progression of diverse employees.

She told HR magazine: "HR teams can ensure diversity on selection panels and monitor each stage of the recruitment process to ensure there is no disproportional drop out of candidates. And once recruitment is over, HR teams can also help to promote sponsorship and progression within the company.

"Businesses have a wealth of talent at their fingertips, but they need diverse voices around the table, and HR personnel are the key to making that happen.”

Signing the Race at Work Charter is more than just a tick box exercise, she added: "It’s a promise to act, not an end in itself. 

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The guidance is designed to help SMEs lacking HR support tackle racism and racial inequality at work too.

Data, for example, can be harder to aggregate in smaller businesses while protecting employee identity. The guide advises employee one-to-ones as a helpful alternative for understanding and measuring the impact of any inclusion and diversity efforts in SMEs.

“An important recommendation, and the critical place to start, is for organisations to collect ethnicity data on the workforce to understand where they are,” added Cheese.

“This should include data on pay differences to help shine a light on issues such as lack of support or progression opportunities for ethnic minority staff, or recruitment and broader people management practices that need addressing.”

The Race at Work charter currently has 630 signatories. British workplace expert Acas is currently one of them. Acas head of D&I Julie Dennis, told HR magazine: "Signing up means taking practical steps to ensure workplaces are tackling barriers that ethnic minority people face in recruitment and progression and that their organisations are representative of British society today.  

“In addition, the Race at Work Charter is a clear statement of intent that will show current and potential Acas employees that it is serious in trying to improve ethnic minority representation across the organisation.”

Meeting the BITC Race at Work Charter: an employer’s guide can be accessed here.